|Great for Consumption - A Slice-of-Life With a Touch of Mystery!||7 out of 7 users found this review helpful.|
Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime is an engaging read from beginning to end. I even finished it all in one sitting! As my first experience of Japanese light novels published in the U.S., I was especially impressed with the quality of both Mizuki Nomura's writing and Yen Press' translation. There is a distinct eloquence in the narrative tone of our protagonist, Konoha Inoue, as well as in his dialogue with the titular book girl, Tohko Amano. They are a dynamic duo, empowering the impact of this light novel between their quirky exchanges and profound contemplations. This is a great read for slice-of-life, comedy fans who like a touch of mystery. To relate this to a more familiar anime and light novel series, I’d compare it to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya – in fact, I’d say Book Girl’s pair of protagonists are much like Haruhi and Kyon in ways!
Before I get further into this, let me run down some of its details: it’s rated for ages 15+, 192 pages long, and was published on July 27, 2010 at the modest price of $8.99. Over in Japan, Enterbrain published this series. It is the first volume in the Book Girl series, which will gradually be translated and published in the U.S. over the next few years. This book in particular even won an award for Best Mystery Light Novel in 2007 by the Japanese publisher Kadokawa Shoten. (To put it into perspective, another award winner you might be familiar with was the Toradora light novel in the category for Romantic Comedy.) Its sequel, Book Girl and the Famished Spirit was recently published in the U.S. on January 25, 2011 – and I’ve already bought and started reading it! This is definitely a light novel series I will follow devotedly.
One of the most intriguing features of this light novel is its philosophical complexity; despite its seemingly simple premise, there is a great amount of depth in the backstory of our characters - particularly the protagonist - that enhances the tension during the suspenseful twists of this mix of slice-of-life and mystery. In fact, the book even starts with a somber retrospection of our protagonist narrator, Konoha Inoue, whose pen name, Miu Inoue, is nationally celebrated after winning a new writers’ competition at the age of 14 and having his work published to critical renown. Regardless, Konoha is upset with himself to the extent of turning away from the spotlight and giving up writing for good. While he is vague about the reason at first, it gradually becomes clearer throughout the course of the book. By its climax, we realize how the reason touches on something personally traumatizing to him. Although I was already familiar with this reason due to having watched the Book Girl anime film prior to reading this, I was impressed by the author's original approach in revealing it.
Now a second-year in high school, Konoha Inoue actually finds himself lifting the pen again, albeit involuntarily. After discovering the "secret" of the eccentric Literature Club president, Tohko Amano, he is forced to join her club and write. While her secret seems more like an idiosyncrasy, Tohko eats written and printed texts because that is all she can actually taste. Despite being unable to taste real food, her imagination invents humorously accurate analogies between what she reads (a good mix of notable Western and Eastern literary works) and flavors she never truly experienced with real food. This was an especially entertaining and endearing characteristic that had me appreciating Tohko. Beyond this, her deduction skills are almost intuitive and she ultimately looks after Konoha a lot more than he would expect. Even with her quirks, she's personable!
Essentially, the course of this book’s plot is driven by Tohko pushing Konoha to extremes in her search for food. Beyond regularly forcing Konoha to write her short stories to literally snack on, she devises a method to acquire even more writings of personal nature at Konoha's expense. She sets up a mailbox outside of school offering the services of the Literature Club to help those with love troubles. While utilizing Konoha’s natural writing talents to remedy them (by making Konoha write love letters),Tohko insists that her clients write up a follow-up “report” detailing their feelings of love and deliver it to her for consumption. She does this not in philanthropy, but simply because she enjoys eating handwritten, personal writings the most. By doing this, Tohko unwittingly brings forth the unfolding of this book's mystery with their only client, Chia Takeda. Despite appearing to be a benign, cute and clumsy girl secretly in love, there is much, much more to Chia's story.Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime is expressive and clever in providing depth to its mystery. Between some chapters, there are breaks in the narrative with mysterious texts not written in the tone of our protagonist and highlighted in bold. Not only is the text related to the central tension building of the plot, but I wasn't certain to which character the writing belonged to until the very end - bringing an additional layer of mystery I appreciated. Even more profoundly, these writings reference a famous Japanese novel by Osamu Dazai, No Longer Human. By approaching its themes with such literary awareness, Book Girl is an exceptional read of its own!